As Long Lost Family returns to ITV for a fourth series, Davina McCall tells TV Times magazine why this is such a special job…
Hi Davina! Why do you enjoy presenting Long Lost Family?
“It’s such a privilege to be part of a day that someone will remember for the rest of their lives. It’s like being at someone’s birth or marriage. It doesn’t feel like working.”
Does being so emotionally involved in the stories ever take its toll?
“There are two things that happen after a reunion. The first is I get home and my family are like: “And… What happened? How was it? Were they happy?” and so on. Even when I’m just describing a story beforehand, they get really involved. So I do that. But then I have to go and kind of debrief myself in a bath and think about that day. It’s a very nice feeling knowing you’ve put people together. Every story has a different ending but whatever happens in the future, they’ve got answers and answers are so important.”
How does the process work of filming a reunion?
“I’m usually with the person who’s arriving at the venue and there’s a moment when I stop filming and all the cameras run inside, and then 20 minutes later a producer comes out to say: “Count to 10 and go in”. In that in-between time, I always stay with my person because I’m the one they’ve been on the journey with. In fact, that’s always the most exciting moment. They’re like: “Is this really happening?” and I’m like: “Yes it really is”.”
Why do you think the show’s so popular?
“People say to me that it’s almost like a release of emotions. It becomes a thing where you get your cup of tea, your position on the sofa and a box of tissues and you know you’re going to get emotionally involved. People go: “I had a great cry” and it’s like a positive thing.”
And you won a BAFTA for Best Features Programme this year!
“I definitely didn’t think we’d win as it was such stiff competition. It took me a moment to really register that it was us. I looked at Nicky and went: “Oh my God”. It was amazing.”
What has the reaction been to the show from everyone?
“When I did Big Brother, people used to say, “I hate that show you do”. But I’ve not once had anybody say anything negative about Long Lost Family. You might not want to watch it because it brings up too much stuff for you but it’s not going to be because you can’t stand it or feel it’s manipulative. It’s none of those things and that’s quite unique.”
Also this year, you took on an incredible Sport Relief challenge where you swam, ran and cycled from Edinburgh to London!
“The public were just unbelievable. My left knee is still a bit dodgy. But I’ve just been able to start training again for the first time since the challenge.”
Would you ever attempt such a feat again?
“Sport Relief is every two years but they start talking about it next year. However, I’ve done it now – tick!”
Long Lost Family returns to ITV on Monday July 14 at 9pm.